Film Review! George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Last night, I may have attended a World Premier.

With barely a week to promote it, the Maui Film Festival presented a one-night-only screening of the new Martin Scorsese documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, as a benefit for the “Trees, Please” program of Maui Tomorrow.

Its official release is not until Wednesday, when it will air on HBO in two parts, October 5th and 6th, so last night’s showing required the special sanction of Olivia Harrison and Martin Scorsese, themselves.

I couldn’t wait.

So I schlepped to the beautiful Castle Theater of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, an hour’s drive from home, and anted up $20 for an HD glimpse into the inner life of one of my greatest personal heroes, in a 208-minute expose with Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound.

Oh, my sweet lord.

It was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more. Details follow.

But first! As curious as I was about the film itself, I was equally curious to see who would show up for this event. You see, I was once told that Beatles fans fall into one of four catagories: You’re either a “John,” a “Paul,” a “George” or a “Ringo,” depending on a number of scientific factors. If you look around this blog, it’s easy to determine which category I fall under.

So I wondered, driving to the theater, if I might be united with my people. The George People. The thought thrilled me.

What would they look like? What would they be wearing? What kind of cars would they be driving? I envisioned a lot of cool, grey-haired people in hemp clothing and wondered if I’d look out of place in my Army-green pants and Hawaiian shirt.

Spillage of crowds

Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

The parking lot was packed by the time I arrived. I saw dirt-encrusted pickup trucks, swanky BMW sports cars and at least a couple of Combat Veteran license plates. Lines of people of every age and ethnicity spilled out from the Pavillion waiting to get in.

There was hemp clothing, to be sure, but also denim and drape jackets and doc martens. Our common thread? Clearly, it was an interest in a story which had not been yet been told.

George Harrison’s life is a sort of Hero’s Journey from materially humble beginnings to the apex of fame and fortune. Like me, you may have heard versions of the Beatles’ musical rags-to-riches story before.

What makes George Harrison: Living in the Material World so unique is that it doesn’t focus on what he did as much as it focuses on who he was. We learn about the motivation behind the man, from the people who knew him the best.

The documentary is a series of intimate stories, anecdotes and reflections shared by the people with whom George shared his life. It’s woven together with rarely seen photos and footage taken before, during and after his life with the lads and boasts a soundtrack that variously soothes and stimulates.

George’s son, Dhani, provides narration as he reads excerpts from personal letters and journal entries written by his father. Did I mention it was intimate?

What it is not is hagiography. Despite George’s pioneering charitable work and his deep commitment to spiritual life –specifically the path of Krishna Consciousness– he was not without faults and failings.

It is because of his humanity, however, not in spite of it, that his story resonates so deeply.

I hope you watch George Harrison: Living in the Material World. If you’re a George person, Martin Scorsese’s revealing documentary will make you feel like you’ve come home. And if you’re not a George person, you could very well become one.


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